Queen reminds nation to 'never give up' in VE Day broadcast as she praises COVID-19 response

Rebecca Taylor
Royal Correspondent

The Queen has reminded the nation to “never give up” as she reflected on her father’s broadcast on VE Day 75 years ago.

The Queen gave her speech at 9pm, the same time her father broadcast on the radio, and recalled many of his words, strikingly apt for a nation in lockdown.

As well as honouring those who died during the Second World War, she said the continuing work of those keeping the country going reflected a nation “those brave soldiers, sailors and airmen would recognise and admire”.

Speaking after black and white footage of her father in he said: “I speak to you today at the same hour as my father did, exactly 75 years ago.

“His message then was a salute to the men and women at home and abroad who had sacrificed so much in pursuit of what he rightly called a ‘great deliverance’.

“The war had been a total war; it had affected everyone, and no one was immune from its impact.

Queen Elizabeth II, then Princess Elizabeth, arriving at the Fourth Birthday Rally of the Girls' Training Corps, at the Royal Albert Hall. (PA Images)
King George VI in 1939 giving an Empire Day broadcast from Government House in Winnipeg. (PA Images)

“Whether it be the men and women called up to serve; families separated from each other; or people asked to take up new roles and skills to support the war effort, all had a part to play.

“At the start, the outlook seemed bleak, the end distant, the outcome uncertain.

“But we kept faith that the cause was right – and this belief, as my father noted in his broadcast, carried us through.

“Never give up, never despair – that was the message of VE Day.”

Read more: How Queen Elizabeth and Princess Margaret sneaked into crowds and danced to celebrate VE Day

Prince Charles, and Camilla, observe a two minute silence to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day. (Getty Images)
A portrait of Robinson Collins is displayed outside Holy Trinity Church to commemorate VE Day in Binegar, Somerset. (Getty Images)

Her message was given on a day which saw muted celebrations, a far cry from the extravagant plans for street parties and parades, as Britons stayed at home to stop the spread of coronavirus.

The Royal Family led the nation’s adapted commemorations, with Prince Charles and Camilla, who is the Duchess of Rothesay when in Scotland, holding a two minutes’ silence in Balmoral, and the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall video calling veterans.

The Queen, who is in Windsor, was surrounded by war mementoes during the pre-recorded message.

Her aquamarine and diamond clip brooches were an 18th birthday present from her father King George VI in April 1944 – just over a year before the end of the conflict in Europe.

Read more: Nine veterans at Royal Hospital Chelsea die with COVID-19 ahead of VE Day commemorations

King George VI with his daughter Princess Elizabeth during a visit to Natal National Park in South Africa. (PA Images)

The two art deco-style pieces, which the Queen wore separately in a diagonal setting, were made by Boucheron from baguette, oval and round diamonds and aquamarines.

She also chose to wear the precious jewellery during her Diamond Jubilee televised speech in 2012 – her only other televised address marking an anniversary.

She also recalled her own part in the celebrations, as she and her younger sister Margaret Rose danced with Londoners after greeting them from the Buckingham Palace balcony.

Also on the desk in the white drawing room at Windsor Castle was a framed photo of her father George VI looking serious but composed in his Admiral of the Fleet uniform with RAF Wings.

Queen Elizabeth II, then Princess Elizabeth learning vehicle maintenance on an Austin 10 Light Utility Vehicle while serving with No 1 MTTC at Camberley, Surrey. (PA Wire)
An Auxiliary Territorial Service cap, worn by Princess Elizabeth whilst serving in the wartime ATS. (PA Images)

Read more: VE Day in colour: Amazing images show end-of-WWII victory celebrations ahead of 75th anniversary

Her Majesty said: “I vividly remember the jubilant scenes my sister and I witnessed with our parents and Winston Churchill from the balcony of Buckingham Palace.

“The sense of joy in the crowds who gathered outside and across the country was profound, though while we celebrated the victory in Europe, we knew there would be further sacrifice.

“It was not until August that fighting in the Far East ceased and the war finally ended.

“Many people laid down their lives in that terrible conflict.

“They fought so we could live in peace, at home and abroad.

“They died so we could live as free people in a world of free nations.

“They risked all so our families and neighbourhoods could be safe.

“We should and will remember them.”

The Royal Air Force Red Arrows pass over the London Eye. (PA Images)
The Royal Air Force Red Arrows pass over the Horseguards Parade during a flypast. (PA Images)

Read more: How the Queen became a symbol of stability in the chaos of coronavirus

Marking the peace known in recent years, she closed by saying: “The wartime generation knew that the best way to honour those who did not come back from the war, was to ensure that it didn’t happen again.

“The greatest tribute to their sacrifice is that countries who were once sworn enemies are now friends, working side by side for the peace, health and prosperity of us all.

“Today it may seem hard that we cannot mark this special anniversary as we would wish.

“Instead we remember from our homes and our doorsteps.

“But our streets are not empty; they are filled with the love and the care that we have for each other.

Read more: Will the inspiration for the Queen's VE Day speech be her father's words?

“And when I look at our country today, and see what we are willing to do to protect and support one another, I say with pride that we are still a nation those brave soldiers, sailors and airmen would recognise and admire.”

The Queen rarely makes televised broadcasts, and this is only her sixth in her reign. But it comes just a few weeks since her last - given in the midst of coronavirus.

In that message, she used the words of Second World War sweetheart Dame Vera Lynn, as she comforted the nation and the commonwealth with the knowledge “we’ll meet again”.

She also released an Easter message on social media, urging Britons to take hope in the resurrection.